In 1792, under the reign of George III, with William Pitt the Younger as Prime Minister, Birch Cullimore began trading as a firm of solicitors from our current home at 20 White Friars, Chester City Centre. For perspective, in France the same year, King Louis and his queen Mary-Antoinette were imprisoned when the French monarchy was abolished, leading to Napoleon Bonaparte becoming powerful and waging the Napoleonic Wars. 12 years after Birch Cullimore began trading; the Battle of Waterloo marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
However, going back yet further: The site was formerly occupied by the Carmelite Friary of the White Friars of Chester. The Friary was established in about 1290 and survived until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1593, the site of the Friary passed into the ownership of Thomas Egerton, Attorney General to Queen Elizabeth I. It is believed that at that time, the building was used for the office of the County Palatine of the County of Cheshire.
By 1651, John Earl of Bridgewater held the site and one of the tenants of the property was Giles Vanbrugh, a sugar refiner who took the property on in 1667. His son lived in the property from the age of three and went on to be knighted as Sir John Vanbrugh – one the greatest architects of the Georgian era – he designed, in particular, Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace.
It is uncertain who erected the present building called Friars but it can be seen from the outside that the building was probably built in 1742.
Birch Cullimore began trading from Friars in 1792. The firm began under a solicitor called Massey.
The solicitors’ practice has continued in the building at 20 White Friars ever since that date. In the 1860s, Henry Birch and John Cullimore became partners and the firm acquired their name and the subsequent services of their sons and grandsons. Rae Cullimore and Harry Birch retired from the partnership in the 1980s.
In about 1912, one of the partners in Birch Cullimore first became Under Sheriff for the County of Cheshire and those duties have been carried out from the office ever since. To this day we are the office of the Under Sheriff for the County of Cheshire and the City of Chester and currently John Arnold, one of our Directors, is the Under Sheriff.
Meanwhile in 1891 Francis Mason joined with Thomas Moore Dutton and set up a practice in central Chester. They practised initially from Newgate Street. One solicitor they employed, Billy Dutton, managed to win the 1928 Grand National (in his spare time!) riding Tipperary Tim.
In 1963, Mason & Moore Dutton moved from Newgate Street in Chester due to the construction of the Grosvenor Shopping Precinct. The firm moved to Hunter Street prior to having to move once again to White Friars in 2006 following plans for the construction of the Northgate development in Chester.
Ahead of their time, in 1993, Birch Cullimore was the first solicitors in Chester to add financial advice to the legal services offered. This cemented their position as the premier private client solicitors in Chester, enabling families to have their legal and investment needs met, by one firm.
In 2009 the two firms, Birch Cullimore and Mason & Moore Dutton, merged. In recognition of both firms’ history and shared future, part of each firm’s name was used to create Cullimore Dutton.
2019 saw Cullimore Dutton acquire successful, Chester-based, Yates & Co. Independent Financial Advisors, adding mortgage advice alongside further expertise in pensions, investments and insurance, all under the Cullimore Dutton umbrella. This cemented Cullimore Dutton as not only Chester’s most established law firm, but also the only choice for families and individuals who want the security of knowing their mortgage, equity release and investment advice is being provided by experts who are completely independent.
Plans for 2020 promise further improvements to the way Cullimore Dutton serve their clients, including expansion of the Family Law department with the appointment of a new Head of Family Law, Brenda Spain, and 5 new positions being created across the firm.